1.31.2013

Kindness of Strangers

I'm often teased about how I "never meet a stranger." It's not like I go out of my way to engage in random conversations with random people...um okay, maybe I do. I feel that a polite hello and a smile extended toward someone is much better than a furrowed brow or a frown.

And despite past blog post which sound that I am down on all relationships and wallowing in my own pity party because I've had to close some doors, I'm actually quite an optimistic person about people. Yes, like everyone at times I don't like the way people treat each other, acting as if their negative actions have little impact or long-term consequence, and while I'm often disappointed by the lack of common courtesy that people seem unwilling to extend to one another (not returning emails as everyone knows is my biggest pet peeve), and how we excuse our lack of manners by saying how busy we are and that we don't have time, I do believe that even those that are the most hurtful, for the most part, do not intentionally mean to be, well, mean.

The truth is we don't manage our time well. In business it's known as MIT: most important task. And I believe that nurturing the relationships we have with others should be our MIT each and every day. Because everything in our lives is really about the relationships we have with others, whether friendship, romantic, or even business. Unless you have decided to live the rest of your life on a desert island without any means of connecting with the outside world, your life will in some way, shape, or form, impact either directly or indirectly the life of another. Simply put, we overlap.

And that overlap, good or bad, can frame or shape how we conduct ourselves for an entire day, if not mold who we are for a lifetime. We make choices, some of them well thought out, others random, but all can have a consequence.

The other day I was standing in line waiting to order a coffee, I struck up a polite "some weather we are having" conversation with the gentleman in front of me. It wasn't a significant conversation and we were both just passing the time while orders were being filled. As he was paying for his purchases, he asked me if I had ever tried a certain blend of coffee. I hadn't, and said so. He then turned, walked past me, took a bag of coffee off the shelf and handed it to me saying "I'm sure you will be nice to someone today and it will be paid forward." Then he smiled and walked away, before I could even say thank you. Little did he know that I really needed a kind gesture. And yes, it's just coffee, but we all know that it is the thought that counts. That carries weight. That makes the difference. 

To the world you might be one person,
but to one person you might just be the world.

I hear all the time about "random acts of kindness" and "paying it forward." I tend to believe more along the lines of "purposeful acts of kindness." About being aware of those around you, being mindful of their presence and place in your life (or boat as I've written before) and behaving in a way that lets the people around you know that they have a worth and significance to you. 

"No man is an island." Everyone we met has the potential to be someone important in our life, even if it is to just hand us a bag of coffee. How many times have you attended a pot-luck. You bring your favorite dish, maybe it's a chicken salad. Your recipe is unique, you add pecans, red grapes. You put it in your best dish. And it sits on the table uneaten. Not because it isn't a great chicken salad, but maybe there are people in the room allergic to nuts, or don't like chicken, or red grapes. Not everyone is going to like everyone else, but that doesn't mean being rude or impolite, because we all have something to bring to the table and should be thanked for showing up and participating. Because the relating of that story on my Facebook page created a conversation about:

  • how kindness counts,
  • that there are still nice people in the world, and
  • if I've always been "this way."
And yes, I've always been "this way" because I don't know how else to be. I'm sure, like everyone, I have my moments of pettiness and jealousy. And I've been heartbroken enough where I've downed an entire gallon of ice cream and sang Adele songs at the top of my lungs and off-key to boot, plotting the perfect revenge against those that have hurt me. But after a good night's sleep, as I sip from my first cup of coffee, I realize that my time is valuable even if others don't and I won't waste my time on those who feel I am a waste of their time (or have shown me that by their lack of courtesy and politeness.) You don't have to "unfriend" someone from your social media sites to have emotionally "unfriended" them. 


And no matter how hurt you are doesn't mean you should hurt someone back. Because the person who hurt you probably needs more understanding and compassion than anyone else because perhaps they don't know that "to have a friend you have to be a friend." I think those people, even if they are surrounded by people, must be the loneliest people because they continue to treat everyone as a stranger rather than say hello and make a new friend. 

Choose wisely

Because you never know, there might just be coffee along the way. 


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